Christmas cooking can be supremely pleasurable, but if you're short on time, money or inspiration, it can feel burdensome too. Throw in a few cantankerous relatives who can't understand why anyone would ditch traditional roast turkey in favour of a new-fangled seafood feast and all the booze-soaked cherries in the world won't save your sanity. But for residents of Queensland's south east corner, help is at hand. Many cooking schools are offering tips, techniques, menus and (most importantly) drink pairing suggestions to get your festive feast off to a jolly good start.
The days of the steaming hot Christmas lunch are behind us, according to James St Cooking School chefs who are sharing two Queensland Christmas menus with students this December. Think dishes such as roasted turkey breast fillet stuffed with brie, cranberries and pistachios, salad of char-grilled prawns and Thai herbs served with chilli and tamarind dressing, and a warmed caramelised mango cheek served with pineapple and mint salsa and chocolate sauce. Classes are also available showcasing summer style desserts like whipped lemon cheesecake tart and fruit jelly terrine. And if that's not enough, sign up to one of the novelty Christmas cupcakes or gingerbread houses classes.
Christmas Entertaining with Alison Alexander There is not much about local produce and producers that Queensland's first Food Fellow Alison Alexander doesn't know. And in a series of classes in Brisbane City Council libraries throughout December, she'll be dispensing ideas for preparing edible gifts for friends and family, making do-ahead dishes to reduce Christmas Day stress, and creating a last-minute Christmas cake. Tastings and recipes are included. Classes are free but bookings (by calling the library closest to you) are required.
Oranges clementines and tangerines become especially popular during the festive season. Image courtesy Christmasstockimages.com under Creative Commons licence.
The Spirit House Cooking School is focussing on fragrant, festive Asian style banquet dishes which can be prepared ahead of time - which means you'll have the chance to relax with friends and family rather than rush about clattering saucepans. Seared duck breast with mandarin and black pepper caramel and watercress salad, salad of char-grilled king prawns with fennel, mint and yoghurt dressing and lime and coriander cured kingfish with mirin and pickled vegetables are among the dishes on the menu. Polish it all off with chocolate and coconut tart with five spice poached peaches and coconut ice-cream. But be warned: these classes sell out every year. If you don't get your skates on, you may need to join the waitlist!
Hillstone St Lucia. Hillstone St Lucia's November Christmas class sold out, so they've added another for December. Focussed not just on helping people cope with Christmas Day, this class will reveal a range of meals that are suitable for the duration of the holiday season. Beverages and menu tastings are offered throughout.
Amytis Gardens Retreat Bake your own traditional Christmas pudding, roll your own 'family secret' rum balls, construct an individual gingerbread house and mix mulled wine. These 4.5 hour classes at Amytis Gardens on the Sunshine Coast includes all ingredients and recipes - as well as a bonus 'aromatherapy for Christmas' lesson to help you get your home smelling of festive spirit. Children over 10 can accompany parents for minimal additional cost.
A well-stocked wine cellar will lubricate Christmas celebrations. Image courtesy Christmasstockimages.com under Creative Commons licence.